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There is a famous saying that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

For schoolchildren growing up in the small town of Tunuyán in Mendoza, Argentina, it is certainly a phrase they have taken to heart.

Thanks to the Tunuyán Verde project, a unique community initiative that began back in 2014, recycling is becoming second nature. The environmental awareness and action project is designed to get local people thinking differently about the way they use plastic bottles, and what happens to their PET bottles once they’ve finished with them.

The project, organised and implemented by Nestlé Waters’ natural mineral water brand Eco de los Andes, in Argentina, has been a real success.

A series of fruitful local partnerships

That is largely thanks to a unique public-private partnership. The Environmental Office of the Municipality of Tunuyán supplies schools with containers. So, rather than throwing their PET plastic bottles in the bin at home, children can bring them to school and deposit them for recycling.

Tunuyan Verde PET bottles recycling

Then, once the containers are full, the school can give the local authority a call and they will be collected. The school is given new containers to carry on collecting more bottles.

The collected PET is weighed and then sorted by another partner, COINCE (Consorcio Público de Gestión Intermunicipal de Tratamiento de Residuos Sólidos Urbanos de la Zona Centro), which runs the local waste treatment plant in the city.

waste weighing and sorting

Based on how much PET has been collected, recycled and then sold by COINCE, the schools benefit from the money raised in the form of new pens, pencils, paper, blackboard chalk, furniture and other learning materials for the classroom.

Raising awareness about PET bottles recycling

Increasing awareness of the benefits of recycling PET bottles is part of Eco de los Andes’ commitment. “That’s what we’re promoting with the Tunuyán Verde initiative,” says factory Manager, Gabriel Minati. “We want to show how a 100% recyclable PET bottles can end up back in schools in the form of educational materials.”

Eco de Los Andes manager

In just five years, more than 17,000 kilograms of plastic has been collected; that’s more than half a million PET bottles. In 2019, 28 schools across Tunuyán took part in the initiative, learning about the benefits of recycling and taking care of the environment. It’s an initiative that showcases Nestlé Waters commitment to strive for zero impact of its bottles by encouraging new behaviors and understanding within local communities.

teachers and students team project

The project has changed the perception that empty PET bottles are merely something to be thrown away, when in fact they are a valuable resource that can be recycled into new things. “The students are really committed to the program,” says Martin Aveiro, Mayor of Tunuyán. “They are learning about the importance of environmental care and are sharing this knowledge with their families,”

You can find out more about the Tunuyán Verde project in the video below.